In the last 10 years, there has been a tremendous expansion of network deployment. Government agencies are realizing the benefit and productivity gains created by network technologies and are installing and expanding networks.

Networks have become dynamic entities. The combination of network hardware, software and the people using them is called network management, which keeps the LAN running smoothly and efficiently. Network administrators and managers need more control and security to improve communications, increase efficiency and manage critical data and documents.

The main problems associated with network expansion and deployment are day-to-day operations and growth planning.

The staffing requirements for managing large and heterogeneous networks have created a crisis for many organizations. Automated network management and capacity planning, integrated across diverse environments, have become a necessity.

Network management tools help bring order to network management, giving network managers information and capabilities they need to run their LANs efficiently. Management tools can help managers trouble-shoot cable breaks, find the causes of network slowdowns, track network usage, maintain security, help managers plan for expansion, and more. They have become an essential part of the network manager's operations.

Most network management architectures use the same basic structure and set of relationships. Computer systems and other network devices run software that sends an alert when problems arise. Automated systems are programmed to react by executing one or more actions, including operator notification, event logging, system shutdown and automatic attempts at system repair.

Well-known network management protocols include the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Common Management Information Protocol (CMIP).

SNMP is a protocol that defines the communication between network management and a device or process to be managed. While SNMP is widely used, it has several limitations. Some consider it too simplistic to handle large and complex applications. Many foresee that CMIP, the network management standard for Open System Interconnection, may surpass TCP.

Stuff You Should Know

Five critical functions of network management systems are overseeing performance, configuration, accounts, faults and security.

Performance management entities provide immediate access to historical statistical information about network operations. They can analyze data to determine normal operational levels and appropriate performance thresholds for each important variable, so that alarms are tripped when thresholds are exceeded.

Performance management also permits proactive methods. A network simulation can be used to project how network growth will affect performance metrics. Such simulations can alert administrators to impending problems so that corrective measures can be taken.

The goal of configuration management is to monitor network and system configuration information so that the effects on network operation of various versions of hardware and software elements can be tracked and managed. Because all hardware and software elements have operational quirks or flaws that might affect network operation, such information is important to maintaining a smooth-running network.

The goal of account management is to measure network utilization parameters so that the individual or group uses of the network can be regulated appropriately. Such regulation reduces network problems, because network resources can be apportioned by resource capacity.

The first step toward appropriate account management is to measure utilization of all important network resources. Analysis of the results provides information on current usage patterns, and quotas can be set by administrators. Measurement of resource use can provide billing information as well as information used to assess optimal resource management.

Fault management detects, reports and automatically fixes network problems and errors to keep the network running effectively. Because faults can cause downtime or unacceptable network degradation, fault management is perhaps the most widely implemented system.

Fault management involves determining the problem's symptoms, isolating and fixing the problem, then testing the repair and documenting the entire process.

Security management restricts access to network resources according to agency